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A Good Writing Day for Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle is the author of several books, including Thirsty for the Joy, and The Grail: A Year Ambling & Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir in the World, which was a finalist for the 2006 Oregon Book Award in creative nonfiction. He’s also the editor of Portland Magazine, a quarterly magazine from the University of Portland.

In an essay recently published in the The Oregonian, The freedom of not reading a book to its dreadful finish, Brian talks about the joy in not finishing books that’s he’s just not that interested in, and the “great pleasure of ceasing to read.”

Here’s how Brian describes a good writing day:

“A good writing day is, first of all, a day when no one in the house has thrown up as yet, the shower is leaking only minimally into the laundry room, and the Woman of the House has not arisen at three in the morning to contemplate simmering dissonance and incoherence among the teenage mammals.

Such a day gets better if, when I sit down to type, the STORY OF THE MOMENT is adamant that it wants to be told, and it sprints off in interesting directions that I had no idea about, and it is grinning and tart, and roils and rolls and leaps and roars along; a really really good day is one where I actually chip away at the HUGE IMPORTANT PROJECT that I am supposed to be doing writerwise, but also have fun catching some quick vibrant THING that after an hour maybe shows me its shape and form and tone and flavor and character and bone and fiber; all this on the theory fomented by David James Duncan that every writer ought to have a HUGE IMPORTANT PROJECT on which he or she is sworn and vowed to work – a VAST INCHOATE NOVEL in my case – so that the childish sidelong giggling energy that informs NOT DOING WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO can channel into fun and vigorous and illegal and illicit bursts, which are of course the best energies, and how I have apparently committed books of proems.”

Does Brian have any writing prompts?

“Well, two come to mind immediately that I find very helpful – one is simply to answer your email, which gets the fingers loose and the mind bent and the way smoothed between your headheartness and the friendly keyboard; and the other is to write notes to my mum, which (a) earns me brownie points and (b) earns me letters back from my mama in her lovely looping handwriting schooled into her eighty years ago in the Bronx and (c) almost always leads to some thread of story that I then very cheerfully mill into SOMETHING while I am supposed to be working on the VAST INCHOATE NOVEL. See above.”

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